Thursday, March 23, 2006
Looking To The Stars - Prose And Cons
There is an old saying that if one cannot say something nice, one should not say anything at all. But if I were to follow that advice, I would have nothing to say about the previous weekends' All Con. And as I have a column to write, it is time to break out the poison pen.
Granting that this is a second-year convention and that I was not present for the fiasco that was the New York Comic Con, I can still easily declare this – within the realm of my own personal experience –
*slight pause as he gets ready to do the Comic Book Guy voice from The Simpsons*
WORST CONVENTION EVER!
In all fairness, I do believe that the organizers did have good intentions that far outweighed their ability to put on a good show. As I said last week, I was there as part of Los Bastardos; an acting troupe I am part of that performs (among other things) The Rocky Horror Picture Show. To say that we had a rough time of it would be an understatement. From the Thursday night press junket (where apparently the professional press came and went before any convention personnel showed up), to our Friday night performance (during which we had power problems due to a rock concert in the room next door) to our after-show party Saturday morning, nothing was as it was promised by the convention staff.
As I said, I choose to believe and hope this was due to unexpected complications rather than outright lying. We had a rather good after-party planned only to have it shut down after 20 minutes. It seems that we were misinformed when we were told that the floor was secured for the convention and that security was advised to ignore any complaints from that floor not involving fire, rape, murder or cattle stampedes.
Apart from that, the staff was nothing but polite to me and mine as were most of the vendors. Even the ones I outright told that I didn't have any cash and was just looking and dreaming of that which I could not have. (Conan #12 – it will be mine some day!)
This is, I might mention, my test for any vendor at a convention. Tell them you don't have money now. If they become rude or are anything but polite when faced with naught but the hope that you might have money later, they aren't worth your trouble.
And I should make mention of Ethan Nahte – a rather cool bloke who was kind enough to give me a free preview copy of his Robert Howard inspired novella Buckeye Morris of Timber Ridge for free. He's got a few articles of his own up at herorealm.com which are well worth reading. And he's currently at work on a documentary about that master author which, from the preview I saw, looks like it will be something special. So thanks to Nate and his compatriot for not being at all insulting when I stuck my foot in my mouth and revealed that everything I knew about Robert Howard's historical novels was wrong.
Anyway, the biggest problem with this convention is that it tries to do too much. As the name suggests, it tries to have something for ALL geeky interests. The problem brings to mind another truism of the same school of "if you can't say something nice" – "You can't please everybody." Indeed, by trying to please everybody you are almost guaranteed to make something that nobody enjoys.
Here then is the problem – I am a collector of comics, a table-top role-player and a very occasional collector of some very specialized action figures; three rather diverse interests, three different camps of geekiness. So what did this convention have to offer me?
Apart from one vendor selling some D&D books, a few comic book and AF dealers and a signing by James O'Barr of The Crow… all of which I went through in one hour, not much.
And I never did find that Starman variant figure I was looking for…
Other bases of fandom will be equally ill-served. Star Wars fans can meet one Jedi actress, get their picture taken with the local Storm Trooper platoon and shop for action figures – but that's it. Star Trek fans can meet an actor who has the honor of having guest stared in nearly every Star Trek TV show there is, get their picture taken with the local Klingon platoon and shop for action figures – and that's it. There is nothing to support any individual branch of fandom for more than an hour at the most.
And even with their efforts to acknowledge all aspects of fandom, some were given the short end of the stick in favor of some rather questionable events. Why was there no open gaming area? No tables where gamers might meet and play Magic or get a pick-up game of D&D together?
The answer to this may lay with the fact that the hotel picked to host the event was far too small to hold so lofty a convention. Everything was contained upon the third floor with some events being held inside hotel rooms. Yes. Actual hotel rooms.
Given this fact, I can't be too upset that there was no place for me to try and get together a group to run the latest Conan RPG module. Not when the DFW Alias Fan Club is having to hold their marathon viewing session inside a hotel room.
Ultimately, the best symbol of All-Con is the one pictured above. When I first got there, I saw the Darth Vader balloon they had set up in the lobby breakfast bar. I knew something was off about it, but could not put my finger on exactly what it was. It was my friend Animal (who takes his nickname from the Muppet, as I take mine from Jack Knight) who figured out why the back flaps of Darth Vader's helmet stuck out so badly.
"They repainted a Bozo the clown balloon! It's Darth Bozo!"
Look at the picture and judge things for yourself.
And speaking of judging things for yourself, I believe that I did promise you all an appraisal of the new V For Vendetta film last week, didn't I?
Let us address one thing right of the bat, which I did mention in passing last week. Namely, that Alan Moore has come out as being not just opposed but DAMNED opposed to this movie. Quite honestly, I cannot blame him given that the producers of said film were more than just a tad disingenuous in mentioning invoking Moore's name in order to garner early public support for the film.
I believe Moore has the right to boycott the movie for this reason. I believe he has every right to ask that his name be removed from his work in future editions of the works that DC Comics owns. After all, if a writer has the right to claim credit for a work, surely the right to refuse credit is logically implied? Directors have been refusing to take credit for movies they had no control over, opting to go as Alan Smithee for years – why not allow writers the same right?
That being said, I cannot help but note the irony that Moore's biggest complaint about the film itself, according to a recent interview, was his concern that the pro-Anarchism message and the idea of encouraging people to think independently had been completely lost in translation, when the most intelligent defense I have heard as to why not to see the movie coming from the mouths of Alan Moore devotes is "Because Alan Said It's Total Bollocks."
You may as well go form an Anarchy Club at your school, if you're going to take that route toward subversive behavior.
And while we're on the subject of subversive behavior, I should probably mention that yes, this film does contain a rather unsubtle indictment of the American War in Iraq. Specific reference is made to things going wrong shortly after the American war. From there, fascism becomes the new ruling order and reference is made to a government orchestrating an attack on its' own people in order to make people scared and more willing to give up their freedoms in the name of security. Secret wire-tapping is conducted in a most decidedly not secretive manner and the whole-sale torture and slaughter of Muslims is encouraged.
And yet, this is all done in the fashion of a parable or a cautionary tale. While it is unsubtle, it is not meant to be subtle in the same way that sledgehammers are not meant to be subtle. The film is meant to pack a punch and to hit hard. And on that front, it succeeds. And while some of the political statements are less subtle than in the book, the movie succeeds in being more subtle in some respects. For instance, the book outright states that all the non-White Anglo-Saxon Straight Protestant were exterminated by the Norsefire Party in their rise to power. In the film, mention is made of efforts to control Muslims, liberals and homosexuals but if there was a single African, Asian, Latino or non-White face in the whole film that wasn't in the death-camp scenes, I didn't see it.
I put it then to my conservative readers, and I know that I do have some, that if you are offended by this film – if you think a parallel can be drawn between your government or your politicians and people you honestly think have your best interests at heart – that the problem likes not in the film. The problem lies with you and the fact that there's some part of you that thinks that what your government is doing CAN be compared the politicians in the world of V For Vendetta.
That being said, you probably want to ask, ignoring all the politics and the fanboy squabbling... how is the film?
If we must have a bastardized Alan Moore epic on screen, then this is by far the best we could have hoped for. It is not nearly as redundant as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen nor as insipid as Constantine. It is as well-acted as From Hell and much better plotted than any of the three. In short, I enjoyed it. I think most of you will enjoy it too.
In closing, I would ask you to take what I have said with a grain of salt. Remember that my thoughts are my own and in no way an indication of what you should think. Experience is the best teacher and I encourage all of you, especially you devotees of Mr. Moore, to go and give this movie a chance in the interest of forming your own individual opinions. For if you are content to sit on your laurels and let the word of any man, even an esteemed author like Alan Moore, dictate your actions... well, then I think you could stand at least one more rereading of the book you profess to honor so much with your protest.
Just an idea.
Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.